Dishonest, Damaging, Disgusting: Newsweek Calls YOU “The John Next Door”

If you’ve never paid a prostitute for sex, you may be surprised to read that Newsweek refers to you as “the John next door”—a “man who buys sex.” You should definitely check out this dishonest article about some misleading research.

For her study, self-described sex work “abolitionist,” enemy-of-porn (and often-arrested) Melissa Farley interviewed 201 men, attempting to show the contrasting traits of men who “buy sex” and those who don’t. But her categories are defined in ways that skew the results–in ways that support her ideological agenda.

The “sex buyers” are defined as men who “have bought” sex from a prostitute, escort, massage parlor or sex worker (even once, a jillion years ago), or anyone who has exchanged “something of value” for a sex act (which covers almost anyone who has ever dated as an adolescent or young adult). Thus, this category is pretty weak.

More importantly, the “non-sex buyers” aren’t simply men who haven’t bought sex, as Farley defines it above. Rather, to qualify for this category, a man ALSO has to “not have purchased phone sex,” not gone to a strip club more than once in the past year, not have bought a lap dance, and not have used pornography more than once in the past week. Farley notes that even this last criterion alone—what she calls “infrequent porn use”—narrows her category substantially.

So Farley isn’t comparing men who “buy sex” with men who don’t “buy sex.” Instead, she’s comparing men who “buy sex” (or perhaps have dated extensively in the real world) with men who are far less interested in virtually all aspects of sexual entertainment, and in some cases presumably masturbation as well (as reflected in their “infrequent” or non-use of porn).

Not surprisingly, Farley finds that men who are less involved in all aspects of sexual entertainment, less interested in porn, and in some cases presumably masturbate less are less likely to view women sexually, are less likely to have many sex partners, less likely to have sexual conflict with women, etc.. It’s the equivalent of finding that people who go to church are more likely to believe in God than people who don’t go to church.

With all the sociologists and sexologists in America, the article doesn’t quote a single one. Somehow, the only people qualified to speak about the reality and impact of prostitution are those devoting their lives to ending it. How’s that for “fair and balanced?” Newsweek calls this “news of current research.” I call it demeaning propaganda.

So the four-page article focuses on a single study contrasting men who have bought or bartered for sex with men who rarely or never use sexual entertainment, including pornography. The study concludes that men who “buy sex” are violent criminals who dehumanize women, view them with anger and contempt, and relish their ability to hurt them. This will come as a surprise if you or your mate look at porn or go to strip club. Are you or your mate really Jack The Ripper?

Newsweek’s article is their latest contribution to America’s feverish Sex Panic. Want more proof? After damning all legal forms of adult sexual entertainment, including the single most common form of sexual expression—porn use—the article brings in the heavy guns: the dreaded “Sex Trafficking.” Yes, an article that starts out bemoaning America’s level of prostitution use, and the vicious sadistic mentality of the average customer, then moves on to “sex trafficking.” From there it’s just a tiny step to “underage sex trafficking.”

Everyone agrees that there are no reliable figures on how bad “sex trafficking” is in the U.S. (which itself is a clue to its rarity), so activists simply make them up. The most commonly cited figure is “100,000 to 300,000”–and even the guy who made this up won’t stand behind it.

From The New York Times to Salon.com to Wikipedia to Newsweek, that’s the figure cited—not 150,000, not 250,000, but always “100,000-300,000” American kids sold into prostitution every year.

But when University of Pennsylvania professors Richard Estes and Neil Weiner invented the figure “100,000-300,000,” they weren’t referring to actual prostitution or trafficking; they said the numbers “estimate the number of children at risk for commercial sexual exploitation.”

And who’s “at risk?” Almost everyone except Beaver Cleaver: loners, female gang members, kids who run away for 24 hours, transgender kids, kids who live near international borders, and others.

In response to a recent Village Voice interview, Estes says “kids who are kidnapped and sold into slavery? That number would be very small…a few hundred people.” American law enforcement officials estimate the figure is less than 1,000. Of course, that doesn’t stop professional crusaders and celebrity do-gooders like Ashton Kutcher from terrorizing parents, Congress, and kids themselves with completely fictional descriptions of danger.

Is it too much to expect Newsweek to ask for a single study actually backing up its extraordinary claim about the sexual trafficking of American children?

* * *

Newsweek’s article is littered with non sequitors, contradictions, and emotion presented as fact:
* It claims there’s a “growing demand” for prostitution—without citing any evidence.
* It presents bizarre exceptions as common: e.g., a mother trading her 4-year-old’s body for drugs.
* It says “Nearly 100% of men in the study said that minors were always available for purchase in Boston.” Since half the men interviewed claimed to never have bought a lap dance or time with a prostitute, how would they know this? Is that what you think about your community—that “minors are always available for purchase”?

The Newsweek article ends with the would-be heart-wrenching question: “should people be entitled to buy other human beings for sexual gratification?”

And while the reader is primed to answer—to shout—“NO!” and leap into action, in the real world virtually no one is suggesting anything about ordinary people “buying other human beings” for anything.

In America’s world of commercial sex, people (some with fewer choices than others) are selling services, access, and time (primarily to customers who are lonely or who feel self-conscious about their desires). You can disagree with whether that’s a reasonable product for people to sell, but it’s a far cry from “buying other human beings.”

By the article’s logic, we’re also buying human beings for our gratification when we pay to watch athletes and entertainers. But we all know we’re not buying them. We’re buying their time and access to their performances.

With its distortions and fear-mongering, this article is part of the problem—not of prostitution, but of sexual illiteracy, Sex Panic, and a general war on non-vanilla sex. Anything that lumps together prostitution, pornography, and sex trafficking is ideological propaganda.

Are you the John Next Door, or his mate? Newsweek thinks you are; worse, Newsweek thinks that means you hate women, or you’re a self-hating woman. You should feel insulted.

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